Winter Triathlon Training: A Beginner’s Guide

Tips for winter training from a top tri coach

No matter what time of year, training for a triathlon is never easy business, but it’s not hard to make the argument that training during winter certainly presents a few extra obstacles.

 “Some of the challenges that we face at HBodyLab when tri training in the winter are the weather, lack of sunlight in the evenings, and finding pool time,” says Kevin Hanover, chief coach and founder of HBodyLab, a NYC fitness club that provides sports performance strength and conditioning and triathlon coaching.

His advice for conquering these challenges?

“Keep an open mind about switching up your routine,” Hanover says. For example, even if you’re not a big fan of the treadmill, you may have to take some of your running workouts inside if the temperatures dip too low.

“Take your workouts inside, focus on strength, form, and building a strong foundation in all three disciplines,” he added.

You shouldn’t completely avoid training outside, though. Hanover says getting a successful outdoor winter workout is dependent on two important things: your gear and your warm-up.

“Purchasing proper gear and equipment will keep you from hibernating,” he said. “And make sure to get a solid dynamic warm-up in before heading out in to the cold so that the body is primed and ready to perform to avoid injury.”

To help maintain your motivation he also suggests joining a training group for weekly outdoor workouts because adding a social element will help to keep you accountable.

When it comes to sustaining your drive to train, he also suggests forward planning, like mapping out your weekly workout schedules and packing your gear for the following day’s workout before going to bed.

“Make sure your workouts are attainable with your work schedule,” he said. “Set a physical goals or register for a race in the spring so that you can get back outside, have some fun, and test your fitness.”

Hanover says that for most of the athletes he coaches at HBodyLab, wintertime is for “fine-tuning."

“[It’s] a time to build strength and fine-tune pieces of the puzzle that they may not be able to focus on while in the heart of race season,” he explained. “We review past and current performances to see what improvements can be made and what we need to focus on to improve overall.”

He mentioned that for many athletes, this means lots of pool time.

“Swim a lot, then swim some more,” he said. “Our athletes use this time to get comfortable in the water.”

As for bike training, Hanover suggests focusing on strength, form, and basic mechanics. The same goes for running, but with an additional focus on cadence.

Especially if your goal is to simply maintain your fitness and stay strong for the spring season ahead, Hanover says that winter training for triathletes is actually pretty simple.

“Contrary to what many athletes and coaches may believe, maintaining your fitness with low volume and plenty of recovery can be achieved for those that are just aiming to stay in shape through the season,” he said.  “One to two bike sessions on a trainer, a couple run sessions inside or out, a progressive strength program, and some pool time at higher intensity with lots of rest will keep the body primed for the upcoming sport specific season.”

He did however note the need to alter the above approach for triathletes at a more advanced level.